Guillaume Pfefer, Senda Biosciences CEO

Two years post-merg­er, Flag­ship’s Sen­da re­fines pipeline and re­plen­ish­es the bank 

Sen­da Bio­sciences will look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than it did two years ago when Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing un­wrapped the bow on the ven­ture, a merg­er of Sen­da and Kin­tai Ther­a­peu­tics.

Orig­i­nal­ly home to six pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with am­bi­tions for treat­ing mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, Parkin­son’s, col­orec­tal can­cer, chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease, obe­si­ty and oth­er dis­eases, the start­up is fine-tun­ing its path and will soon present a clear­er scope of its fu­ture.

For now, en route to its clin­i­cal en­try — a mile­stone that had been an­tic­i­pat­ed for this year, as of last June’s Se­ries B — the fledg­ling biotech is pick­ing up an­oth­er round of cap­i­tal, again from Flag­ship and a slate of new in­vestors.

With a $123 mil­lion Se­ries C, the Cam­bridge, MA, biotech hopes to have a re­fined vi­sion in the com­ing months as it turns off the lights on some of those pro­grams out of Kin­tai and its orig­i­nal blue­print.

“The next cou­ple of months, we’re go­ing to be start­ing to look at turn­ing the fo­cus of the com­pa­ny to­ward strat­e­gy goal area and spe­cif­ic pro­grams for IND de­c­la­ra­tion and first-in-hu­man,” CEO Guil­laume Pfe­fer told End­points News.

The biotech has been “de­pri­or­i­tiz­ing” mul­ti­ple pro­grams, in­clud­ing CKD, as it’s got­ten deep­er in­to mR­NA and ramped up ef­forts in im­muno-on­col­o­gy, in­fec­tious dis­ease and meta­bol­ic dis­ease, Pfe­fer said.

The com­pa­ny’s vi­sion is based on “in­ter­cel­lu­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion across species,” as Sen­da has worked to glean in­sights from bac­te­ria, fun­gi, plants and oth­er sources to see how non-hu­man species have co-evolved with hu­mans — in­clud­ing the bac­te­ria with­in us. That in­volves look­ing at how they’ve evolved to com­mu­ni­cate with hu­man cells.

“We are look­ing at cell and gene ther­a­py and broad­ly speak­ing, com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram­ming of med­i­cine,” Pfe­fer said.

In its fund­ing an­nounce­ment, Sen­da said its plat­form can al­so “cre­ate new fron­tiers for ther­a­peu­tics and vac­cines” and maybe gene-edit­ing and pro­tein-based ther­a­pies down the road. Pri­or to join­ing the Flag­ship boat, Pfe­fer was a 25-year GSK vet­er­an who led shin­gles vac­cine de­vel­op­ment.

The goal is to reach cells, tis­sues and or­gans that pre­vi­ous med­i­cines have failed to reach. Sen­da wants its nanopar­ti­cles to tar­get spe­cif­ic cells and tis­sues in a “safe, re­peat­able way,” the CEO said. Pfe­fer is al­so a Flag­ship part­ner.

Af­ter tap­ping in­vestors, Sen­da is now pre­pared to move to­ward the clin­ic, and will look at hir­ing a chief med­ical of­fi­cer, Pfe­fer said. The biotech cur­rent­ly em­ploys about 75 peo­ple, he said.

The “in­ter­sys­tems bi­ol­o­gy” that serves as the foun­da­tion of Sen­da is the re­sult of a decade of re­search out of Flag­ship, which in­clud­ed tap­ping in­to the mi­cro­bio­me ex­per­tise and com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy at the in­cu­ba­tor. On the mi­cro­bio­me side, Flag­ship has run in­to vary­ing hur­dles, in­clud­ing shut­ter­ing Kalei­do Bio­sciences ear­li­er this year, but bar­rel­ing ahead with Seres Ther­a­peu­tics, which is head­ed to the FDA with its C. dif­fi­cile drug.

Flag­ship, the biotech-cre­at­ing be­he­moth that has launched more than 80 star­tups in its 22-year his­to­ry, al­so re­cent­ly con­tributed to an­oth­er round of fi­nanc­ing for its spin­out Evelo, and has added a se­ries of new CEO-part­ners, in­clud­ing for­mer Ab­b­Vie leader Mike Sev­eri­no.

“In this mar­ket, it is a lit­tle bit tight, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, great sci­ence and great da­ta at­tract great in­vestors and that re­mained true cer­tain­ly for us,” Pfe­fer said.

The Se­ries C in­clud­ed Flag­ship and new Sen­da back­ers Sam­sung Life Sci­ence Fund, Qatar In­vest­ment Au­thor­i­ty (QIA), Bluwave Cap­i­tal and Stage 1 Ven­tures. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors al­so joined, in­clud­ing Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments, Longevi­ty Vi­sion Fund, Mayo Clin­ic, Part­ners In­vest­ment and State of Michi­gan Re­tire­ment Sys­tem.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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